Infosys gave a finishing touch to consolidate all its software products ad platform businesses under a single umbrella with effect from August 1 this year, when it brought banking software product Finacle to become part of EdgeVerve, a fully-owned subsidiary of the Bengaluru-based company. Michael Reh, a former top executive at German software firm SAP who is now driving Infosys's product and platform business as an Executive Vice President and CEO (Designate) for EdgeVerve, talks about his vision for the business, in this interview with Bibhu Ranjan Mishra. Edited excerpts:
How has the experience working with Infosys been for you, considering that you come from a product organization? There is no big difference between how the people work here and there. The big difference is, of course, being the part of the product unit of a service organisation. The difference is in terms of the expectations on return on investments (RoIs), processes, compensation model, skills and the brand name. For example, if I want to recruit a UI (user interface) designer, since the brand Infosys has always been associated with a services company, it's a challenge. That's what we are addressing with EdgeVerve. I am quite happy that I have the full support of the entire Infosys organization including the board to take EdgeVerve to the next level and be a major contributor in our 2020 goal.
How are skillsets like UI important from EdgeVerve's point of view? I believe user experience is something with which you can win the heart of the end users, not just by the capabilities. It's about how the user perceives the product and how it feels while touching it for the first time. There are studies which show that when you are in the internet and use a browser, it takes more than two seconds to experience a product. If it takes longer than 8 seconds, then you give up that task.
What are the immediate priorities ahead of you? Before I took up this role, I had an interview with the board. They asked me about the status quo of Finacle -- why is Finacle is what it is today? In my view, in the past, Finacle had been seen as an enabler for the service business (of Infosys). This is how it grew which is good. The KPI (key performance indicator) of the service company is completely different and you have to change that if you have to outperform. Our goal is not just to contribute more than 10 per cent to Infosys's 2020 goal, we want to be the number one employer for products in India.
Finacle has been the platform around which Infosys has been selling its services as well. Is it changing going forward? Over the last nine months, we have clearly articulated our strategy -- that it's not that we want to become a technology company, we need to balance these two things and solve customers' problems. As Dr Sikka has been laying importance on 'Renew' and 'New' as part of the new strategy, we are also looking at ways on how we can help banks to renew their existing systems. Many of these banks use legacy processes and systems of around 20-25 old or even older. But with Internet, mobile and things like Apple watch coming in, the complexity of business is also changing. So, the first challenge is how to bring this world together with the new world. That is where we are helping the banks with the progression of renewal to modernize their environment.
What is the kind of user experience the financial organization can provide using technology? This is one of my favourite examples which I had also shared in my one of keynotes at a conference in San Francisco. While playing a game in my mobile phone, I came across an advertisement which asked me if I wanted to open a new bank account in just five minutes. The way the banking system works in Germany is very similar to that in India.
It's a very time consuming process. So when I pressed that button, it said I am 10,540 in the waiting list, but can improve ranking by telling friends about it. This is what is called gamification. I did not have time to do that. But when I was in San Francisco, I got an email saying I can now open the account. It was quite hassle-free which required downloading of few apps including one which enables video-chat, and filling up the form. After the call got over, the account was ready. I was able to process transaction, do payment. That experience was awesome.
Are you going to completely rewrite the product (Finacle) to give such kind of experience? We have two different kinds of products -- Finacle core and then there are lots of front-end systems like eBanking, wealth management, payment solutions and treasury and many more. The backend system replacement or renewal by the clients is happening at a different pace than the frontend systems. The main reason is, that is stable, deeply integrated, and also there are regulatory requirements. Front-end systems which are touching the end-users are heavily impacted by technology and therefore have a completely different pace. So what we are doing is that we allow our customers to work in that environment at their own speed while we enable them to have a completely different pace for the frontend systems.
What is your strategy on positionining Finacle as a strong player in North America and Europe going to be? I think the market dynamics in those places are slightly different. If you see the situation in Germany and the US, many of the systems are called old systems; those are mainframe systems which are more 20-25 years old. So when Finacle is competing in those countries, you need to have a market for it. That market did not exist until a few years ago. And now since newer technologies are coming in and those systems are becoming old, you can't make use of those in the new environment. Banks see the need for renewing their old system, and now you see that happening in the US as well as Europe. We are already starting to see a spurt in the number of request for proposals (RFPs) we are getting in these markets. The other issue is about brand. In the US or Europe, clients know Infosys as a service company. We are building the brand name and educating the world.